Herbert Hunter and his Barbershop
HHH is Harold Herbert Hunter (1901-1976), my uncle; my father’s oldest brother. He went by Herbert.
By profession Herbert was a barber. He owned Hunter’s Barber Shop on Church Street in Marietta, about two blocks from the Square. He was the only one of his brothers who sported a mustache.
As a hobbyist he was an aviator and an avid fisherman – and an appreciator of good looking women.
His barbershop was along narrow shop. When you enter his station was the first, on the right.
Behind him was what seemed like a very long mirror that went the length of the haircutting area. Under the mirror behind each station was a shelf that held various lotions, tonics, creams, and a sink. Shaves and shampoos were often, although not for me.
After him was Oscar Powell. Oscar was the newest and the one who would take over the shop and put it in his name after Herbert retired.
The next was a mostly quiet man with the last name Brown. I remember he lived on Stewart Avenue extension. I think I remember he had a leg problem, he may have limped – but I am straining my memory. He looked something like Jimmy Cagney.
After Mr. Brown was another quiet man, who looked old and sickly. His last name was Veach. He lived on Howard Street, not far where I spent my teenage years.
The next station was the shoeshine station which was manned by Andy, a black man. In later years Andy also walked with a limp. He kept the hair swept up and always seemed very nice and a warm person. That is, that is how I thought of Andy until I ran into him years later, after I returned from the Navy… he was walking with another black man and I came up to him and spoke to him – this was after Herbert had retired, he was not nice at all. He formally spoke to me without a smile. Shit. What did I do?
Next to the shoeshine station was the Coke machine. Herbert’s Coke machine dispensed Coke in bottles. The old kind that had the city imprinted on the bottom. The Cokes in the machine sold for a nickel. It was the last nickel Coke machine in town. The Marietta Journal one time had an article about the last nickel Coke machine in town at the barbershop.
The next thing on the right was the bathroom and storage area, which was sort of a inside outhouse on the far end. I don’t think I had ever used the facility, but that is what I thought it was… although, I do remember by the back window with the window fan looking out at the train passing one day when it was raining.
Back to the front door and we are entering again: This time we are looking left. There is a row of seats almost as long as the room was. It stopped short someplace near the shoeshine stand. There are man-type magazine, such as Field and Stream, and Hunting & Fishing. And for the ladies who brought their children there was Saturday Evening Post, Look, and Life.
On the wall, above the row of chairs was a row of framed 8X10 advertisements. It was mostly, if not all, of locally-owned companies, such as Mayes Ward Funeral Home, Field Furniture, Dixie Café, etc.
Ever so often there were tall sand containers to ground your cigarette, if you smoked. If you didn’t, then you would just have to gag until after you got your haircut. Also, there were two or three well placed spittoons… with sickly brown liquid.
Hunter’s Barbershop closed on Wednesdays. Back then, many local stores took their second off days on Wednesdays.
And on Wednesdays Herbert would go to Allatoona Landing, take his boat out, check on some lines he had hidden in coves and do a little fishing. Daddy and I went with him a few times. One time on his hidden line he had caught a turtle. A very green turtle with a pointed beak. We put it in a container under the seat. I checked on it a couple of times. It stunk. Herbert said he was going to have his wife Willy have turtle stew.
I am not sure of the name of the baited line he would leave and check later. I think I remember they called it a “trout line” but I am not positive.
Also, for a time period, before I was a teenager he jointly owned an airfield and a piper- cub or two. He took us flying more than once – probably twice over a couple of years.
His airfield was on Austell Road near the intersections of Floyd and Hurt Road. On the outer edge of the airfield was a apple orchard that was alongside Hurt Road almost to Hicks Road.
Herbert had a plane crash. During the wreck the hot engine landed on his leg which just about crippled him for life. But, he in time healed. I think about then he got rid of the airfield and the airplane(s).
In time the area the airfield was at became a drive-in theater and later a shopping center.
Herbert was considered an early aviator of Cobb County.
His brother Stanley, who was almost a generation younger, told me one time that Herbert, he, Bus, and I don’t know who else would take the plane to various fields in rural Georgia, such as near Rome, Chatsworth, and around and pay a farmer for the use of his land for a day and put on an air show and give plane rides – for a price of course.
While typing all this I just realized that most of the men at Hunter’s Barbershop had legs injury. I don’t recall Oscar Powell limping or having anything like that…. But maybe that got by me. That is a bad occupation for people with bum-legs.
Back in Herbert’s barbershop. As I mentioned, he was an appreciator of good looking women. Several times while he was cutting my hair a good looking young lady would priss by the window and wave at him and and he would wave back. I think his flirty ways they felt was a complement. It was a harmless male-female ritual.
Being the owner, he got to be by the window, which has its advantages.
Behind him, by the mirror, was a beautiful ornamental cash register high up on a filing cabinet or something. Each evening Andy would hobble by, say a few words to Herbert and they quietly spoke and Herbert would ding his cash register, give Andy some money and Herbert would make a note of it as Andy went out the door. Herbert must have paid Andy daily for his custodian job without the required red tape of taxes, etc.
I bet Herbert’s paper keeping system gave his bookkeeper fits.
Herbert seemed to have a radar to know who was coming towards his door – I remember once when he was cutting my hair suddenly he said senator blabla was about to walk in and somehow before I knew it he had me leaping out of the chair - or seemingly springing out of the chair - he had his chair emptied and his hand out just as the senator opened the door.
He must have had some kind of little mirror that he kept an eye on – to be on the lookout for people he felt was important to him and of course, good looking women.
Herbert and his wife Willy lived in a humble house on Delk Street in South Marietta. I doubt if it had over two bedrooms and no den or great room or anything big and special.
In the back he had a garage which he seemed to always be making a boat in. We lived behind him – our back yards almost touched – just one yard width difference. Sometimes on warm summer evening when I heard his sander going I would cross through the back yards and drop in and visit and talked to him while he was working.
He was always easy to talk to. He had a loud boisterous laugh and somewhat a positive outlook on things, in a negative realist kind of way.
One time, not long after his youngest brother Dick moved back to Marietta with his large family Herbert told me one day when I was getting a haircut that he was going to have to start charging me. He said with Dick and all his kids getting free haircuts… I could tell he was very uncomfortable telling me this – he almost mumbled it instead of his usual plain-spoken way of talking.
I didn’t mind. I always wanted to try out the other barbershops where some of my friends went. Before then, a free haircut was a free haircut, but now that burden had been lifted, so I since I was paying, I could go wherever I pleased.
I tried them all but came back to Herbert. He gave good haircuts.
Herbert married Willy Collins (1901-1973) and they had three children, two girls and a son. They did very well in life. The daughters are still living. The son died years ago.
Willy died about 3 years before Herbert.
After Herbert retired, every morning he would get the Marietta Daily Journal that was delivered next door to Mrs. Morgan and read it. Then, he would put it on her porch.
One morning he didn’t do that.
One of his daughters called him and got no answer. She called his neighbor, a male, and asked him to check on Herbert. The man had a key to the house. He found Herbert sitting in the living room and appeared to be sleeping. He was dead.
Herbert is the center person in this newspaper picture.
This was Hunter's Barbershop. Now it is an antique store.